Wisconsin Economic Summit II Achieves Goals, Charts New Course
To help maintain the momentum generated by the past two Wisconsin Economic Summits, the state needs to create a nonpartisan, independent organization to coordinate the charting of Wisconsin's economic future.
This is one of the many recommendations stemming from Wisconsin Economic Summit II, held at the Midwest Express Center in Milwaukee last November. Nearly 1,000 business leaders, educators, government officials and students participated in the summit, which was sponsored by the University of Wisconsin System.
Recommended by UW System Board of Regents President Jay L. Smith, the nonpartisan, independent organization could be called the Wisconsin Council on Competitiveness. Smith told summit participants it would serve as an umbrella organization to help coordinate economic growth efforts statewide; function as a clearinghouse for information; convene meetings spanning regions and interest groups; monitor proposed benchmarks; report on what other states are doing; focus on selected key issues; and organize and conduct future statewide economic summits.
"We urgently need something that pulls all these pieces together and makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts," Smith told the summit crowd in his concluding remarks at the summit. "We need something that will keep these discussions and our momentum rolling forward."
Smith suggests establishing five specific benchmarks for measuring Wisconsin's economic progress: increased per capita income; increased federal funding; expanded availability of venture capital; a higher percentage of the adult population with a college degree; and lower personal income taxes.
Smith urged Gov. Scott McCallum and Wisconsin legislative leaders to "begin the next budget process by weighing the long-term implication of spending choices, viewing the budget as a planning document."
With the theme of "Wisconsin's Economy at the Crossroads: Building Higher Paying Jobs for the Future," Wisconsin Economic Summit II was a highly successful gathering of leaders from business, government and education statewide, according to UW System officials and other state leaders.
"To a remarkable extent, the summit achieved all of the goals set for it and provided the foundation for a new course for Wisconsin's future economic development," says UW System President Katharine Lyall.
Those goals included reporting on actions taken since the first summit; identifying specific benchmarks to measure progress; broadening and strengthening partnerships to get more people involved statewide; seeking specific commitments from all players on what they will do to help grow the economy; and identifying the next steps in this process.
More than 100 people took part in the summit as panelists, presenters and session moderators. They included Gov. Scott McCallum; Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow; Congressmen Mark Green and Tom Barrett; state legislative leaders Scott Jensen, Chuck Chvala, Mary Panzer and Spencer Black; technology futurist Daniel Burrus, the summit's keynote speaker; UW System President Lyall and Regent President Smith; David J. Ward of NorthStar Economics and UW Learning Innovations; James Keyes, CEO of Johnson Controls; George Franco of Avante television and the Council on the New Economy; and Tom Still, associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal and session moderator.
McCallum's remarks at the end of the summit's first day outlined his "Build Wisconsin" initiative. He also discussed "Wisconsin Jobs for Wisconsin Grads," a new UW System program to create an Internet job site where Wisconsin companies can advertise openings for UW System students and alumni-for free.
"There is no more important responsibility for me as governor than to oversee the development and implementation of [the 'Build Wisconsin'] strategic vision," McCallum told the crowd. "The time for study has ended. The time for action has arrived."
Also on the first day, a panel of Greater Milwaukee Committee members, led by James Keyes, CEO of Johnson Controls, made a presentation on its Economic Development Task Force Report. Among its recommendations were the need to connect Madison and Milwaukee more closely with Chicago; the value of industry clusters as a model for economic development; the urgency of retaining and attracting college-educated people to the state; and the importance of nurturing a vibrant Downtown Milwaukee in order to attract young professionals. Much of the GMC analysis underscored the main thrust of the summit, but with an emphasis on the state's largest urban center.
UW System Commitments
During the summit wrap-up session on Nov. 27, President Lyall identified the work the UW System is committed to this year:
"Both Wisconsin Economic Summits have done much to strengthen the UW System's connections to state government and the private sector," Lyall says. "These connections helped shape UW System biennial budget priorities for 2001-03, and they will provide a focal point for development of the 2003-05 budget proposal."
That proposal will be considered by the Board of Regents at its meeting in August.
In considering the next steps for the summit, Smith says two needs have become clear: "To compile and organize this mass of information, and to figure out a way to better coordinate the many activities taking place across the state."
In January, summit planners and representatives of both the public and private sectors met to develop an action plan, taking the best ideas from the summit and elsewhere. For more information on summit follow-up activities, visit the Summit II website at www.wisconsin.edu/summit.